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A guide to improving the hotel guest experience from discovery to post-stay
A guide to improving the hotel guest experience from discovery to post-stay

A guide to improving
the hotel guest experience

To be competitive in the hospitality industry today, hotels must provide much more than a place to stay; they must provide an experience. 

The guest experience is the driver that attracts travelers to book, creates lasting memories during their stay, and convinces them to come back (and refer their friends).

In recent years, however, the guest experience has been a moving target. As traveler expectations and behaviors change and evolve, lodging operators must adapt quickly or risk being left behind. With hotels, inns, hostels, B&Bs, and short-term rentals all vying for the same business, it’s the guest experience that sets a property apart.

Cloudbeds’ 2024 State of Independent Lodging Report highlighted the importance of guest experience, noting that after years of post-pandemic binge-buying, consumers are moving from collecting stuff to collecting experiences and are looking for hotels that can deliver. 

Here, we explore guest experience fundamentals, the role of self-service technology, and strategies for leveraging the guest experience to build loyalty.


Check out Cloudbeds’ 2024 State of Independent Lodging Report.


What is the hotel guest experience?

The hotel guest experience, also known as GX, is the sum total of a guest’s interactions with a property and its team members. While the bulk of the guest experience happens on property, beginning with arrival and ending with departure, it also includes pre-stay and post-stay experiences.

At each touchpoint in the customer journey, guests form an impression of their experience that helps them decide whether to recommend the hotel to others and return for future stays. It’s, therefore, a top priority for accommodation providers to ensure that all these interactions are seamless.


The importance of guest experience in 2024 and beyond

The pandemic brought a transformational shift to the guest experience. Hotels reduced staffing and services to save costs, and guests became comfortable with low-touch, self-service options. Today, contactless services and digital messaging have all become an integral part of fostering customer loyalty and a modern guest experience.

Post-pandemic, travelers are booking more, spending more, and have higher expectations than ever. Faced with ongoing labor shortages, hoteliers and hosts must find creative ways to meet expectations with reduced staffing and resources and to increase their occupancy rates. 

At Passport 2023, Cloudbeds’ Jacqueline Maloney and Chris Hovanessian discussed how lodging businesses can break free from the constraints of the traditional front desk, leveraging technology to redefine roles and deliver better guest experiences. 



Stages of the guest experience

How do you ensure your guest experience stands out from competitors? Start by breaking it down into touch points along the guest journey. 


First impressions matter. Pre-stay is a critical time when guest expectations are set through the property’s marketing messaging and pre-stay communications. Pre-stay includes the booking process when potential guests are evaluating your property. Hoteliers need to take into consideration:

  • Is my website easy to navigate? Does it have all the information guests need?
  • Is it easy for guests to make online bookings? Do I have a modern booking engine with clear rates? 
  • Can guests pay via their preferred payment method?
  • Are my OTA profiles consistent with high-quality imagery?
  • Do guests receive a confirmation email upon booking?

It also includes the experience between booking and arrival. Communicating with guests during this stage can put guests at ease and help build a relationship ahead of time. Consider sending pre-arrival information like where to park, amenities offered on-site, and local recommendations. Nearing arrival, send guests a digital check-in link to streamline the process so that they can enjoy their stay as soon as they arrive. 



The moment of truth – when expectations meet reality. This stage includes the guest’s arrival right through to departure and everything in between. There are many ways for lodging businesses to impact the guest experience in-stay. The first step will be to determine what overall experience you want to deliver. High touch? Low touch? A mix of both?

Again, map out the guest experience and the different touchpoints that you can deliver to create a memorable stay. Consider the welcome experience – how can you upgrade the traditional check in experience? Could you provide personalized itineraries? Offer messaging for guests to easily ask questions or order room service? Offer opt-in housekeeping



After departure, the guest experience continues with post-stay feedback and communications, special offers to return, and hotel management responses to reviews. This is an opportunity to encourage guests to continue to engage with your property by joining your loyalty program or following your property on social media channels if they haven’t yet.


6 hotel guest experience fundamentals

Next, focus on the fundamentals. Throughout the stay, guests have basic needs and expectations that can be grouped into six key components of the guest experience:

  1. Convenience. For most travelers, convenience is about location and proximity to the places they will visit. But it can also mean hotel room amenities such as Wi-Fi and entertainment and facilities like a restaurant, bar, and function space.  
  2. Comfort. Notions of comfort tend to vary by traveler, but everyone wants a comfortable bed and a good night’s sleep. Extras may include bathrobes and fluffy towels or a spa and hot tub. For many, comfort is also shaped by how the hotel and its staff members make them feel. Do guests feel welcome and safe?
  3. Service. Service encompasses the helpfulness, efficiency, and attitude of employees and their availability to accommodate guest needs. With great service, hotels can overcome shortfalls in other areas, but it’s hard to overcome a negative service experience.
  4. Quality. Quality refers to the state of the room, facilities, furnishings, food, technology, and equipment. Is it well-maintained and functional, or worn out and neglected? If quality is poor, overall impressions are likely to be negative.
  5. Cleanliness. All travelers expect a clean, tidy environment. During the pandemic, cleanliness became even more important because it was associated with sanitation and safety, an expectation that has remained years later. 
  6. Value. To assess value, guests weigh pricing against fundamentals like service, quality, and cleanliness. If guests think the property offers good value, they tend to view everything more favorably. If it feels overpriced, they are more critical.

How well a hotel delivers on these fundamentals has a direct bearing on customer satisfaction and retention. If expectations are exceeded, new guests are more likely to return and write a positive review. If expectations are not met, guests are less likely to return and may recommend others stay away too. 

Tripadvisor and Google reviews can be especially helpful for evaluating performance in these areas because they allow guests to rate location, service, cleanliness, and value, as well as provide an overall rating of the property. Your reviews on well-known OTAs even affect your property’s ranking in their search results.


Which fundamentals are most important?

Price is the number one factor that influences travelers’ to choose their hotel stay, according to a 2023 survey from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. However, the share of respondents who ranked price as a top deciding factor had not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, suggesting today’s consumer may be less price-conscious or values additional amenities or services. 


Technology and the hotel guest experience

No matter what type of experience you want to deliver to guests, you’ll need the support of technology to make it happen. Both high and low-touch guest experiences require the right solutions to streamline operations. 

Here are just a few new technology trends that are changing guest experience management:


Automated features are built into most technology today, enabling software to handle tasks normally performed by employees. This helps ease the burden on hotel staff and improves efficiency and productivity, freeing up employees to handle more complex tasks and dedicate more time to guests.



Hotel guests have become a lot more self-sufficient. At an increasing number of hotels, guests can now check themselves in, enter their rooms, and order a meal using just their smartphones. 


Contactless services.

The pandemic also accelerated demand for contact-free services like remote check-in and checkout and contactless payments.


Operational tools.

Behind the scenes, hotel technology helps streamline the guest experience by facilitating communications among the front desk, housekeeping, and maintenance teams and replacing manual checklists with automated alerts.


Guest messaging.

Guest service has shifted from in-person and phone calls to digital channels like web chat, SMS, and mobile apps for messaging. Today, you can integrate guest engagement and add other integrations to power your guest communications with AI and chatbots, providing guests with instant answers to frequent questions. Another benefit to using a guest messaging platform is you can use it to send upselling notifications, such as upgrades or add-ons, to increase your revenue opportunities – a win-win for your guests and your business!


Cloud-based property management systems (PMS).

To connect all these applications, more hotels are turning to a cloud-based, integrated PMS platform that consolidates data and technology, empowering staff to provide a friction-free guest experience.


Simple strategies that improve the guest experience

Here are seven ways to leverage the latest trends and technology to deliver excellence at every stage of the guest experience.

1. Send a pre-arrival message

Get a head start on the guest experience by sending automated pre-stay emails, texts, or WhatsApp messages inviting guests to start planning their stay and sharing their guest preferences. You can collect a broad range of information – from pillow firmness and housekeeping preferences to special requests and check-out times. 

All of the information collected pre-arrival can be used to personalize the guest experience. Small touches like putting tea vs. coffee in a guest’s room can make a big difference. Utilizing guest engagement tools, you can gather data ahead of time, so your team is ready upon guest arrival. 


2. Provide remarkable experiences

It’s often the little details and personal touches that guests remember most. Train and empower hotel staff to go above and beyond to provide remarkable experiences, like paying attention to guests’ special requests or special occasions.

Give your team the authority to make decisions on how to improve the guest experience. During staff training, identify the different ways that employees can go above and beyond. Your team should feel autonomous to make calls that will enhance the customer experience. 


3. Perform quality checks

Implement safeguards to ensure quality and consistency, whether it’s digital checklists, standard operating procedures (SOPs), room inspections, spot checks, or silent shoppers.

Having communication channels for your team through automated workflow and messaging tools is also a great way to foster teamwork, which can lead to great guest experiences. The more support your team feels and the better they work together, the better the property’s operations will run. 


4. Check in with guests

Don’t wait to hear about guest disappointments in an online review. Check in during the guest’s stay with a text message or brief survey and ensure any concerns receive immediate attention.

Checking in a couple of hours after arrival is a good best practice. This helps identify areas for service recovery as soon as possible. It also opens up a communication channel for guests to use if anything else comes up during their stay. Messaging the front desk is usually the best way to check in so that guests can respond at their leisure. Otherwise, you’re stuck chasing them down or trying to reach them on the phone. 


5. Practice service recovery

When things go wrong, the real test is how well you manage the situation. Listen to the guest, empathize, apologize, offer solutions, and follow up to ensure the matter is resolved to the guest’s satisfaction.

Proper service recovery is a skill taught during team training sessions. Empower your teams with the knowledge and skills to properly respond and follow up with guests.


6. Solicit guest feedback

Guest sentiment in reviews and surveys will tell you exactly how guests feel about their hotel experience and what it will take to entice them back – and others like them. Respond promptly to both positive and negative reviews. 

Send surveys out via email or text after a guest leaves to collect feedback for internal review. Guests may be more candid and offer valuable feedback when not on a public forum. As a next step, you can send a review link to build your online reputation on the channels of your choice. 


7. Invest in technology

Stay current with hotel industry tools that enable you to provide the services travelers expect today, whether it’s an online check-in process, contactless payments, or self-service, and consolidate technology under one integrated platform.

Your property management system (PMS) is the foundation of your hotel tech stack and should properly integrate with the tools you need to run smoothly and deliver exceptional guest experiences. 


Deliver memorable guest experiences with Cloudbeds.


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